The largest combined car show and swap meet in the United States is a true gearhead’s dream. The Turkey Run, created in 1974 by the Daytona Beach Street Rods, today is a massive undertaking that takes over Daytona, Florida, each year over Thanksgiving weekend. Its formation stemmed from a snubbing from another show, as the club’s president, Stu Sarjeant, had previously attempted to enter his 1923 Ford hot rod in the Ormond Beach 1973 Gaslight Parade, but was denied as no modified cars were permitted.
“My four-year-old son started to cry, and we decided right then and there we would have a show of our own. And that’s exactly what we did the following year,” says Sarjeant.
The first Turkey Run, held at the Howard Johnson hotel across from Bellair Plaza, hosted 45 cars. The show grew quickly, and by 1982 it had moved locations again, this time to the parking lot of the Seabreeze High School. The DBSR crew added a swap meet to provide an extra incentive for people to attend, and the word-of-mouth propelled the show to new heights. By 1987, the Turkey Run had grown to more than 900 cars and relocated yet again, this time to a property at the Daytona Beach airport.
By 1989, if the show was going to continue to expand, it was clear that even more space was necessary. So the Daytona Beach Street Rods partnered with the Daytona Beach Racing and Recreational Facilities District, and a permanent home in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway was designated for future shows. By this time, the show had grown to over 1,520 show quality cars, and 250 swap meet vendors. In 1990, building on the success of the Turkey Run, the Spring Daytona Turkey Run was created. The Spring show welcomed more than 800 cars in its first year.
Forty-six years later, the Daytona Turkey Run hosts nearly 7,000 vintage, classic, muscle and racecars and trucks for show and sale in the fall, and over 2,000 each spring. Also, guests are treated to a massive swap meet in which vendors sell and trade hard-to-find auto parts and accessories, Artisan Alley, entertainment, and a full midway of food vendors. It is a destination event for hot rodders in one of the most picturesque beach locations in the United States.
The 46th Annual Daytona Turkey Run, presented by White Diamond and sponsored in part by Mecum Auctions and Spectrum, was the largest and most successful show to date. Dubbed as a “show for all ages,” there was something to offer for everyone. Spectators enjoyed near-perfect weather for this massive four-day event, which kicked off on Thanksgiving Day and featured over 7,000 participants spread throughout the historic Daytona International Speedway grounds. When I first entered the gates, several vintage racecars and celebrity creations sat right inside the entryway to greet me. Some of these included Butch Patrick from the television show The Munsters and classic stock cars such as Fireball Roberts’ 427 Ford Galaxie.
The show was so large that I didn’t know where to begin walking around. Luckily, the promoters provided me with a wealth of information. The Turkey run is a sold-out show, which fills the entire infield of the 2.5-mile superspeedway with all sorts of show vehicles from mild to wild and outrageous. I spent two days there capturing the sights and still had a tough time gaining perspective as to how large the Turkey Run truly is. When I walked through the swap meet area, I found many collectibles and hard-to-find items. I spoke with several spectators, who said that they travel to the Turkey Run just for the chance to obtain those rare, coveted items. Aside from the massive vehicle display, the event also included the Hops and Hoods Craft Beer Festival, dozens of food vendors, celebrity appearances by Rick and Kell Dale from American Restoration, and the Butch Patrick display, which included an owner-built tribute car to the famed Munster Koach, originally built by George Burris. Even the kids had a dedicated area for them called The Little Gobblers Play Zone.
The Turkey Run was arguably the largest and most well-rounded event I have ever attended, and I’ve been to many, many car shows in my lifetime. Here at the Turkey Run, every genre of vehicle is represented, including those rare, sought-after Hemi Mopars and Yenko Camaros. This show needs no explanation of why people travel from all corners of the world to attend. If you can imagine it, you will probably find it here at the Daytona Turkey Run. Check out the photo gallery below for more images from the show!
For more information about the Daytona Turkey Run, visit www.turkeyrun.com.